MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Consolidating Memphis and Shelby County Schools could drive more children into private schools. Dozens of concerned parents attended a second public budget hearing Tuesday night. As the unified school board looks for places to trim the budget, parents fear music, art, and gifted programs will get cut.
Now, families on tight budgets are considering private school for their kids. On average, private school tuition costs between $8,000 and $12,000 a year and with all the talk of major cuts to programs and teaching staff, parents are seriously looking at that option. Private schools report an uptick in applications too. The Memphis Association of Independent Schools report nearly a 10 percent increase in student enrollment.
Unified School Board members say they're doing everything they can not to make cuts inside the classroom, but it's happening.
"We don't know what our kids’ futures are and if they're not given the opportunity to experience those programs how do we know who we're raising? What they might be able to do in the future,” said a concerned parent and teacher, Livona Monday.
The Unified School District faces a $90 million dollar deficit, maybe more. Board members want to tighten the budget by cutting music, art, physical education, gifted programs, and special education teachers.
"We have children that need us. They need that extra attention,” said Bartlett Elementary School Special Education Teacher Kelly Murley. “They're already coming to us behind in their education and we're there to bring them up to par."
"I want them (board members) to save these programs because this is these students’ future and the future of our city,” said another parent and teacher, Rosemary Winters.
Private schools, like Evangelical Christian School, are seeing an increase in student applications. Parents are now interested in other schools that will embrace their children's education.
"I find that with these programs children get excited about learning and they want to learn more,” said ECS Director of Enrichment Electives Jenny Shorten.
Shelby County Commissioner Chris Thomas says the merger is a mess and he's not supporting a tax increase to help close the school budget gap.
"The county schools were fine. So why did this happen? It is very frustrating and parents are very upset,” said Commissioner Thomas.
Shelby County Commissioners will hear the Unified School System's proposed budget by the end of the month.